Most disgruntled Nigerians consider themselves quintessential whistleblowers. And there can be none who is the undisputed champion of the lot than Lamido Sanusi, the suspended commander-in-chief of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The gist in town is that the man is a whistleblower after he went to town to reel out irregular numbers and figures that he alleged went missing from the NNPC. Other Information indicate that he was severally queried to account for the suspicious donations running into billions he made to his cronies, to airlines and ‘schools’. In one of the interviews he granted recently, he said his oga had asked him to resign if he couldn’t account for the missing billions under his watch but that he refused to do so. So the president, as one who should preside over the dent, suspended him. Because of that suspension, his supporters and some surprisingly important persons are up in arms challenging the president’s ‘unilateral’ decision to put Sanusi where he truly belongs. Well, since the matter is already in court and subjudice, it is taken that we must not discuss it.
However, there are other matters not in court that we must discuss. The most important of them is the matter that got Sanusi suspended: his unbridled tongue. The suspension is not all that running his unbridled tongue got him. He has also been erroneously crowned with an epitaph reserved for an elite group of people who put their lives on the line for the public good. They call this group of people whistleblowers, and the world over, two classic examples come to mind. The first was Julian Asange, the Wikileakean who hacked into secret US classified. After he blew the lid open, the US government hounded him until he holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. The manner of his hounding provoked discussions the world over concerning issues of freedom of speech, press freedom, censorship and the new warfare of cyber espionage. Not too long after, it was Edward Snowden, a contractor for the US government. He it was who revealed to the American people that their government was eavesdropping, not only on their private conversations but on world leaders as well.
But can we in all honesty juxtapose our suspended sheik with Snowden and Asange and lump them all together? We cannot. And the reason is simple. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines a whistleblower as not someone who runs his mouth, but as someone who is outside the government who sees what the government is doing against the people and reports to the people. He can also be someone who sees what the people are doing or not doing that will affect government negatively, and spills the beans on the table for government to see. Notice that in both cases of Asange and Snowden, they were people working outside the government, who saw what the government was doing against people and its people and decided to blow the whistle. They were not a part of the establishment, and they were not in the employment of the government. But Sanusi was a part and parcel of an administration that he threw stones at relentlessly before and after he was given the boot. What a decent fellow should have done in the light of the damning irregularities he claimed to have at his disposal against the NNPC, is to first of all resign in protest if his oga was not listening to his protests and protestations. Many have said that if he did that, it should have earned him a better sobriquet and international acclaim than the suspension and disgrace currently resting squarely on his shoulders.
Nigeria is a democracy run along the rail tracks of the rule of law. It also operates a ‘trilateral’ system of government that involves the executive and its powers, the legislature and its powers, and the judiciary and its powers. None of these arms of government is above the law – what that means is that none impinges or encroaches on the functions and powers and responsibilities of the other, and this is because of the necessity for checks and balances. The office of the governor of the Central Bank is not a separate entity or country or empire unto itself. The incumbent is an employee of the Federal Government. He derives his powers from being an employee of the Federal government.
But Sanusi carried on as though he was a fourth estate of the realm and a country to himself. His was the only arm of government that nobody, not even the president could check. And perhaps because he had very powerful persons goading and egging him on, he went over the top. As far as some of us are concerned, the President was a shade too slow in unilaterally slapping that suspension hammer on him. And we believe as well that those who are contesting the ‘unilateralness’ of the president’s decision on Sanusi in court are merely contesting the letters of the constitution in that wise, not the spirit behind the unilateralness of that suspension.